Scenic Routes: An opening scene so brilliant it renders the rest of the film redundant

In Scenic Routes, Mike D’Angelo looks at key scenes, explaining how they work and what they mean.

Opening credit sequences often function as short films of their own, setting the tone for whatever’s to follow. Sometimes it’s an animated précis of an otherwise live-action movie—Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, for instance, features a title sequence that more or less lays out the entire story in cartoon form, revealing the multiple identities Leonardo DiCaprio’s con man will assume. Kyle Cooper’s famous work in Seven, on the other hand, takes a few handcrafted props that were designed to appear briefly in one scene and creates a deranged portrait of a villain who doesn’t actually appear until over an hour later. Crucial to both of those examples, and to most others I can readily think of (including all the Saul Bass classics), is …

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